It Won’t Necessarily Get You High

About a million years ago, really in the 60s, I attended Hunter College of the City University of New York. Since it was located on Lexington Avenue and 68th Street, we had no campus. What we did have was a high raise building with what seemed to be to be huge elevators. They always smelled so sweet despite the number of bodies crammed in during the change of classes. Being an innocent, I couldn’t figure out why. 

One of my brothers was in the Air Force. When he came home on leave, I told him about this. He laughed. Being more worldly, he explained to me about cannabis. I wasn’t sure I believed him; that’s how innocent I was. Ah, but I realized I had noticed the same odor at parties I’d been invited to. 

Years later, a reader was offered medical marijuana and wanted to know if it would make him high. It wouldn’t. He chose to do without it then. 

When I had cancer, I was offered medical marijuana to replace the opioids I took after surgery. By this time, five decades after my college experience (or lack thereof), I was more than willing. Except… my oncologist explained that it would exacerbate the constipation I was enduring from the drugs I was already taking. I was already uncomfortable enough, so I decided against it. 

So, what is this cannabis of which I write? Surprise! Instead of my favorite dictionary, we’ll be using the Oxford Languages since it is more specific: 

“a tall plant with a stiff upright stem, divided serrated leaves, and glandular hairs. It is used to produce hemp fiber and as a drug. 

a dried preparation of the flowering tops or other parts of the cannabis plant, or a resinous extract of it ( cannabis resin), smoked or consumed, generally illegally, as a psychoactive (mind-altering) drug.” 

Hmmm, however does this make us high?  According to LiveScience at https://www.livescience.com/how-cannabis-high-works.html,  

“‘When a person smokes or inhales cannabis, THC [Gail here: THC is tetrahydrocannabinol, the part of cannabis that gives you a high.] ‘goes into your lungs and gets absorbed … into the blood,’ according to Daniele Piomelli, a professor of anatomy & neurobiology, biological chemistry, and pharmacology at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Edibles take [sic] slightly longer trip through the liver, where enzymes transform THC into a different compound that takes a bit longer to have an effect on people’s perception of reality.”   

Wait a minute… the liver? I’m dealing with kidneys here. 

As reported on Healio at http://bit.ly/39j7WpD , Lisa Miller Hedin, BSN, RN, mentioned the following during her speech at the American Nephrology Nurses Association National Symposium last September. By the way, “Miller Hedin, the founder and CEO of the Medical Cannabis Training Academy, has been involved for 25 years in nephrology nursing and has spent the last 5 years researching cannabis treatment options.” 

“Cannabis is mostly eliminated by the liver and excreted into stool, Miller Hedin said. ‘Very little is eliminated by kidneys or dialysis.’ Cannabis is lipid soluble and can stay in a patient’s system for 80 days, she said.” 

Well, if a bit of it “is eliminated by kidneys or dialysis,” why are Chronic Kidney Disease patients using it at all? 

The nephrologist’s guide to cannabis and cannabinoids by Rein, Joshua L. Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York, USA at http://bit.ly/39mfA2R gave me more insight.  

“Cannabis (marijuana, weed, pot, ganja, Mary Jane…) is the most commonly used federally illicit drug in the United States. As of December 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have medical cannabis programs. Eleven states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use. Several countries worldwide have legalized recreational use whereas many others have medical cannabis and decriminalization laws. The prevalence of cannabis use more than doubled between 2001 and 2013 in the United States… particularly among people over the age of 50 and even more so among those over 65 years …. These age groups are enriched with chronic illness including chronic kidney disease (CKD) that is associated with excess morbidity and mortality ….” 

Read that last line again. This time I did go to my favorite dictionary, the Merriam-Webster at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morbidity for a specific definition – or definitions in this case – of morbidity, 

“1: the quality or state of being morbid especially: an attitude, quality, or state of mind marked by excessive gloom…  

2: a diseased state or symptom: ill health 

3: the incidence of disease: the rate of illness (as in a specified population or group) 
    also: the incidence of complications or undesirable side effects following surgery or medical                        treatment” 

I get it. We have pain. Cannabis can alleviate it without the use of opioids. But don’t necessarily expect to get high.     

Dr. Peter Grinspoon tells us via Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing at  https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/medical-marijuana-2018011513085,   

“Least controversial is the extract from the hemp plant known as CBD (which stands for cannabidiol) because this component of marijuana has little, if any, intoxicating properties. Marijuana itself has more than 100 active components. THC (which stands for tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chemical that causes the ‘high’ that goes along with marijuana consumption. CBD-dominant strains have little or no THC, so patients report very little if any alteration in consciousness.” 

Healthline (Remember them?) at https://www.healthline.com/health/does-cbd-get-you-high#thc seems to have the definitive word on this: 

“CBD can have several positive effects. Some of these research-backed uses of CBD even suggest it may help you feel relaxed. That can feel a bit like a high, though it’s not intoxicating…. 

Research suggests CBD is beneficial for relieving symptoms of anxiety and depression. It might also ease inflammation and pain….  

The World Health Organization says CBD is safe. However, more research is still needed to understand the full spectrum of effects and possible uses. 

Despite general acceptance, some people may experience some side effects when they take CBD, especially at high concentrations. These side effects can include: 

diarrhea 

mild nausea 

dizziness 

excessive fatigue 

dry mouth 

If you take any prescription medications, talk with your doctor before using CBD. Some medicines may be less beneficial because of CBD. They could also interact and cause unintended side effects.” 

Reminder – cannabis is not legal in all states. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

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